Lawmakers Face Pressure Over LGBT Rights in Election Year

Posted at 6:50 PM, May 29, 2014
and last updated 2014-05-29 18:50:37-04

Governor%20StillMACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. (May 29, 2014) – A nearly 40-year-old civil rights bill was responsible for creating a lot of buzz at the Mackinac Policy Conference.

It even attracted the attention of Governor Rick Snyder, who now appears ready to put state lawmakers in the hot seat in an election year.

The Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act bans several forms of discrimination, but not all.

Now, a call for change is uniting the voices of business and political leaders from across the state of Michigan.

“Certainly, we’ve all seen the cultural change, not just in Michigan, but around the country as to how these sorts of issues are viewed,” said Brad Williams, VP of government relations with the Detroit Regional Chamber.

The Michigan Legislature passed Elliot-Larsen in 1976.

Among other things , it bans discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion and sex. But not sexual orientation or gender identity.

“For us, this is about competitiveness,” Williams said. “We wanna make sure the most talented workers feel comfortable in Michigan – that this is a place where they wanna locate.”

That’s why the Detroit Regional Chamber of commerce and Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce joined the president of AT&T Michigan to call on lawmakers to consider the issue.

“I’d appreciate them taking up the issue and reviewing it, and considering it, and i don’t believe in discrimination,” Snyder said.

Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Terri Lynn Land echoed Snyder’s call.

“That’s something that, as the governor mentioned, we should take a look at and bring to the legislature,” Land said. “We need to discriminate against no one.”

Like many things in Lansing, the timeframe for action is an open window.

And there is some reluctance by lawmakers to jump on board.

Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger is raising concern about how this could impact religious freedom.

“I’ve heard the Speaker say that and i appreciate his perspective,” said Snyder. “Again, that might be included in the same kinda timeframe that Elliot-Larsen was being looked at.”

And even the governor himself is taking a cautious approach, particularly when asked if he would sign the bill.

“I didn’t say that,” Snyder said. “Again, I don’t speculate, typically, on signing a bill. It’s only in a rare instance will i do hypotheticals.”

With road funding, Detroit’s bankruptcy and Election Day on the table, any movement on this will likely take place no sooner than December.